The conflict of the play is set in motion by Juror Eight’s lone “not guilty” vote at the start. He is stubborn in refusing to give the easy guilty verdict that a surface glance at the evidence, or conformity to the group’s sentiment, might suggest. By the end, the situation is neatly reversed: Juror Three remains steadfast as the lone “guilty” vote. Yet the play treats these two different solitary stands very differently. Though some might accuse Juror Eight of excessive sympathy, his stubborn insistence that the jury go through the evidence in detail is admired (albeit grudgingly) by other jury members, and forces the jury to treat the trial and its evidence with respect. In contrast, the play unequivocally encourages us to condemn Juror Three’s pigheadedness. Through this mirroring of stubbornness – the first applauded, the second not – the play explores when sticking to your guns is imperative, when it is right but not useful, and when it actively harms both something like a jury process and, more generally, the pursuit of a just outcome.
Juror Eight refuses to vote guilty until the jury looks over and thinks about the evidence. He stands for the jury taking its responsibility seriously and ensuring that there is no reasonable doubt before convicting. After presenting a bit of evidence that he feels begins to establish the reason for his doubts about the case, he even promises to give up and vote guilty along with the rest of the jury if they all continue to think that the defendant is guilty. Juror Eight, it could be said, stands for his convictions about the need to give the defendant a fair shot. His stubbornness forces the jury to look past self-interest in a quick resolution and use reasoning instead of stereotypes. In contrast, Juror Three makes his stand after the jurors have gone over the evidence and raised multiple doubts about its veracity, enough doubt that the other jurors have all changed their positions to not guilty. Juror Three, then, stands for his prejudices, for refusing to see doubts that have been raised. The play, then, suggests two things: first, that being stubborn or taking a stand can be either heroic or cowardly, moral or immoral, depending on what the stand is for. And second, through the jurors that switch sides, the play shows that just as there can be heroism in stubbornness, there can also be heroism in allowing yourself to change your mind for good reasons.
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand ThemeTracker
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Quotes in Twelve Angry Men
Three: I never saw a guiltier man in my life... You sat right in court and heard the same thing I did. The man's a dangerous killer. You could see it.
Eight: He's nineteen years old.
Eight: There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.
Eight: I don't want to change your mind.... I want to talk for a while. Look – this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know – living in a slum – his mother dead since he was nine. That's not a very good head start. He's a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way? Because we knock 'em on the head once a day, every day. I think maybe we owe him a few words. That's all.
Three: You’re right. It's the kids. The way they are—you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid. When he was eight years old, he ran away from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed. I told him right out, "I'm gonna make a man out of you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying." When he was fifteen he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out....
Seven: Now wait a second. What are you, the guy's lawyer? Listen, there are still eleven of us who think he's guilty. You're alone. What do you think you're gonna accomplish? If you want to be stubborn and hang this jury, he'll be tried again and found guilty, sure as he's born.
Eight: You're probably right.
Seven: So what are you gonna do about it? We can be here all night.
Nine: It's only one night. A man may die.
Eight: I've got a proposition to make. I want to call for a vote. I want eleven men to vote by secret ballot. I'll abstain. If there are still eleven votes for guilty, I won't stand alone. We'll take in a guilty verdict right now.
Nine: [Pointing at Eight] This gentleman chose to stand alone against us. That's his right. It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. He left the verdict up to us. He gambled for support, and I gave it to him. I want to hear more. The vote is ten to two.
Three: …You made all the arguments. You can’t turn now. A guilty man’s going to be walking the streets. A murderer! He’s got to die! Stay with me!...
Four: I’m sorry. I’m convinced. I don’t think I’m wrong often, but I guess I was this once. There is a reasonable doubt in my mind.
Eight: [to Three] They’re waiting. [Three sees that he is alone. He moves to table and pulls switch knife out of table and walks over to Eight with it. Three is holding knife in approved knife-fighter fashion. Three looks long and hard at juror Eight and weaves a bit from side to side as he holds knife with point of it in direction of Eight’s belly. Eight speaks quietly, firmly.] Not guilty. [Three turns knife around and Eight takes it by handle. Eight closes knife and puts it away.]
Three: Not guilty!